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Seven U. of I. students win Boren Scholarships for study abroad

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor

Released 6/20/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A record number of University of Illinois students – seven – have earned National Security Education Program (NSEP) Boren Undergraduate Scholarships for study abroad during the 2007-08 academic year.

“The quality of our student applicants this year was amazing, and the results place us among the elite in the number of recipients of Boren Undergraduate Scholarships,” said David Schug, the program director of the campus’s Scholarships for International Study Office. “This is another measure of the depth of international engagement possible for undergraduates at the University of Illinois.”

Scholarship recipients – all of them from Illinois – are Richard Boettcher, Woodstock; Christina Carney, Chicago; Stuart Karaffa, La Grange Park; Grace Lee, Savoy; Alisa Modica, Urbana; Anne Shivers, Peotone; and Sarah Taitano, O’Fallon.

The merit-based scholarships are awarded to U.S. citizen undergraduates for study in Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America or the Middle East. The Illinois students are among 141 recipients from a national applicant pool of 729. Each scholarship winner will receive between $6,000 and $20,000 to support his or her studies, depending on the cost of the selected study-abroad program. In total, the seven U. of I. recipients earned more than $120,000 in funding.

Scholarship recipients enter into a service agreement that generally requires them to seek employment in a paid position with the federal government in the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense or the intelligence community within three years of graduating from Illinois. They also receive priority-hiring status from these agencies.

Boettcher, a sophomore majoring in nuclear engineering, will spend spring and summer 2008 attending an intensive Mandarin language program in China. Boettcher spent six years in the U.S. Navy before enrolling at Illinois and studying in China last summer. After graduation, he plans to enroll in an M.D.-Ph.D. program and potentially work in
bio-defense for the federal government.

Carney is delaying her graduation with a women’s studies major to spend a year in Brazil. Her study-abroad program requires her to commit to speaking only Portuguese during her stay. In Brazil, Carney will focus her studies on Afro-Brazilians, particularly those who live in the favelas (slums). After pursuing a doctorate, she hopes to work on behalf of disadvantaged populations around the world through her work for the intelligence community and State Department.

Karaffa, a sophomore majoring in political science and international studies, will study for a year in Beijing in an intensive Mandarin language program. Although he has yet to go abroad, Karaffa has taken advantage of multicultural experiences at Illinois, such as living in the Global Crossroads Living Learning Community and developing a career workshop for international students with the Career Center. Karaffa anticipates working in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Lee, a senior majoring in political science and international studies, will spend the year studying at International Christian University in Japan. As an exchange student, she will live with a Japanese roommate and attend classes with Japanese students. She has previously lived and studied in Singapore, the United Kingdom and China. Lee plans a career in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Modica, a junior majoring in political science, will take Korean language, politics and foreign policy courses as an exchange student at Yonsei University in Seoul during the 2008 spring semester. She spent a year after high school studying in Japan, where she lived with an ethnically Korean family, and is already proficient in Japanese. Modica hopes to work for the CIA as a staff operations officer, using her cultural and lingual knowledge of East Asia to assist in intelligence operations.

Shivers, a sophomore majoring in history, will use the NSEP scholarship to study Arabic language and Middle Eastern history at the American University in Cairo for the year. There, she expects to further cultivate her long-time interest in Egyptian culture and build on language skills gained through two years of Arabic language training at Illinois. After completing graduate studies, Shivers may consider careers in academia or as a public diplomacy officer for either the State or Defense departments.

Taitano, a sophomore majoring in international studies, plans to continue her Russian area and language studies through a yearlong experience at a language-intensive center in Vladimir, Russia. As a child, she lived for four years in Germany, and believes this experience will help her acclimate to studying and living in Russia with a host family. After graduation, Taitano plans to apply for a position with the Peace Corps before undertaking a career as a Foreign Service Officer in the Department of State.

More information on the NSEP Boren undergraduate scholarship program is available by contacting Schug at